Loving Your Neighbor
June 24, 2014
My daughter evacuated NYC Friday evening, along with several million others. She had received a phone call earlier in the day from a friend’s mother. “ Sweetie, this is your Mama Shirley. Now I want you to get on a train and come up here and stay with us. Don’t worry about anything else. We’ve got plenty of beds and food.” And so she went, along with two other friends, to the loving and caring home of a girlfriend’s mom. She received other offers during the day, from a nearby aunt and another friend.
On Saturday, when I called to check on the status of the hurricane, I reminded her to make herself useful. I found out not only had she and her friends made breakfast, but they were now bailing out the basement which had flooded with water. Good news, I thought. One favor being returned by another. She was helped to a warm and welcoming bed. Their hosts were helped to youthful strength that could bail water. When I heard the next morning that a gas main had broken in the middle of the night and they were all awakened and evacuated from the house, I had a confidence that everything would be okay. Someone would help. My sense of distance and helplessness was eased by knowing someone else was helping.
I watched as this scenario played out up and down the Eastern coast. Friends and families reaching out to others to help get them out of harm’s way. I’ve heard that it was the most orderly and safe mass evacuation in the history of hurricane season. Often these times of trouble and crisis are when we get to see the generosity of the human spirit. We see people reaching out to people. We see and experience the compassion and goodness in others and in ourselves. We are stretched beyond our comfort zone and outside of our daily lives and can be reminded of what really matters. Love. Connectedness. Family. Friends. Safety.
As I write this I am reminded that we are coming up on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. This was another time I watched from hundreds of miles away as friends and family lived through a horrific trauma. It was also a time when I witnessed the amazing capacity of the human spirit. New Yorkers, often misunderstood as only rude and uncaring, showed the world the complexity of their spirit, especially the extent of their toughness, the depths of their compassion, and their unflinching devotion for their city. The rest of the world also showed that the very fiber of our existence is love and generosity. We saw this, too, with Hurricane Hugo, and more recently with Katrina. It wasn’t the government that made the difference. It was the people.
I have friends and clients who are involved in other crises around the world. The ongoing trials in Haiti, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan….pick your trouble…continue to call for our support and compassion. Remember, too, that there is plenty of need right in the neighborhood. A child who doesn’t have a decent home or food enough to get through the weekend. A sick or elderly person, shut-in, lonely and in need of a visit. A person without a home looking for a hot meal and a kind smile. A friend in need of a listening ear and a prayer. An abandoned animal in need of a home.
The golden rule, which in my faith is the second great commandment, love your neighbor as yourself, I believe is often misunderstood. It’s the “as yourself” part that I think we don’t hear. Not as much as yourself. That would make it dependent on our own warped self images. The commandment is to love my neighbor as if it was myself. As myself. We are joined. Connected. There is no real separation, only artificial divisions that we put in place to help us live. Anything I do for you or against you, I am ultimately doing to myself.
So here’s to Shirley and Eugene, who took my daughter in. I know I would do the same thing for their daughter, and I pray they know that. Here’s to all the folks who are reaching out to continue to lend a helping hand, on the Eastern coast of our country, or anywhere at all in the world. And here’s a prayer that we will, all of us, remember that we are all connected, and that what happens to one of us happens to all of us.
A client of mine drives a taxi part-time. Although it is a second job and is requiring some long hours, the job is allowing him to see many sides of life in his city, and he likes this. He recently told me that sometimes he shuttles children from homeless shelters to school if school bus…Read More
It’s 9:17 Wednesday morning. I am sitting on the loveseat in my office, drinking a cup of coffee. I’ve already exercised, had my morning meditation, and gotten showered and ready for work. My office door is closed, the phone is on Do Not Disturb, my secretary knows not to interrupt me unless someone is bleeding…Read More
Dear Blog Friends and Readers, I recently preached at a Lutheran church here in SC and I have been asked for copies of my sermon. I am posting it to my blog for ease, knowing that sermons are not my typical blog. You are welcome to read it and even comment. Or if this isn’t…Read More